Traditional Capacity Management is doomed to fail and cost CSPs millions in unnecessary CapEx!

Most CSPs today adopt a traditional capacity management approach that consists of planning their network resource requirements over the next 12 months based on past consumer trends.

Reality check! In today’s fast paced end-user consumption and service demand, trying to predict resource needs 12 months out based on past end-user behavior is like playing a lottery based on past outcomes in hopes to hit it big – More often than not you will lose big time.

The reality is that the past doesn’t predict the future anymore and that end-users are causing unpredictable shifts in resource consumption in the network as they tune into major events and build their life around real-time communications. Oh sure, many CSPs will read this and think, we have the latest probes in the network giving us loads of real-time data and complex flows where we know if packets are traveling left or right in the network. And yet with all this information CSP still can’t keep ahead of today’s data tsunami, without being concurrently choked by escalating CapEx. Having loads of low-level information more often than not causes data overload: You have so much raw data that you don’t know what it means from an overall congestion perspective without weeks or months of analysis.  Or even worse, you may interpret trends differently depending on the data sample you examine, making it virtually impossible to project congestion and business impacts. Many CSPs with whom I have spoken face the same problem: When in doubt, pour more CapEx into the network, in the hope of adding the right resources to alleviate congestion.

What if there is a way to more precisely target the CapEx spend needed in the network, to deliver the services the CSPs need to thrive?  In fact, there is, and it’s called “Real-time Capacity Analytics”!

Real-time Capacity Analytics is about understanding all capacity-related data rather than looking at it on a per attribute or device perspective – which provides little more clarity than just a blip in an ocean of traffic – instead looking at capacity consumption as it relates to end-to-end path and services to end-users. It is amazing how CSPs are concerned about how capacity congestion affects their subscribers and yet most solutions today fail to look at capacity from an end-to-end end-user perspective. Without an end-to-end view and understanding of how different segments of the network path and services affect congestion, CSPs may be spending CapEx in portions of the network that may temporarily relieve the symptoms of congestion rather than resolving the root cause.

So as a CSP, the next time you face customer impact based on congestion, ask yourself: Did I see it coming? Did I get the right warning signs that congestion was building up over time? Did I get a read of time to exhaustion that could have helped me plan added capacity before impacting my customers? Is my solution pinpointing where to target my Cap Ex? And finally, do I have a solution that can tell me if my network can accommodate new subscribers or services, and, if not, where will the congestion hot-spots occur and how much Cap Ex is needed?

If your current solution isn’t helping you answer any of the above questions, it is time to consider Real-Time Analytics for Capacity Management before your business gets swept away by the tides of capacity congestion.

Mobile Money – Are your customers secure?

KARIBU !!!

‘ M-Pesa’  has been leading the revolution of mobile wallets across the globe. Over 50% of the adult population in Kenya today use M-Pesa service to send money to far-flung relatives, to pay for shopping, utility bills or taxi ride home. While East Africa has been dominating the numbers in the past few years other regions including APAC, EMEA, Europe and Americas are about to explode sooner or later with their own models – NFC, Google Wallets, Mwallets, Apple Passbook,etc

More operators are walking down the path of offering Mobile Banking services in some form or the other every year. These players might get caught off-guard & face what a leading operator in Uganda recent got  hit with– a million dollar mobile money fraud loss !! News articles indicate that a recent internal fraud in a leading operator in Uganda lead to 3.5 Million Dollar loss, Mobile Money boss losing his job & 8 other employees getting fired. Operator also received reprimands from the regulator and had significant dent to its brand image. This mess also opened up competition for other players in the country.  Regaining confidence of customers and regulators will not be an easy job for such operators. They will be looking to enhance security within their mobile money offerings.  It might be a differentiator and lead to uplift in adoption.

This incedence clearly presents a learning for other operators about to offer Mobile Money services. Moving forward, one of the key areas of focus for operators will be to provide a secure mobile money platform to users and manage frauds beyond the traditional regulatory requirements. Below infographic highlights some variants of Mobile Money frauds already rampant within operations and potential damage they might cause.

Mobile Money Risks – Infographic

Kindly follow the link for more information.

Fraud has the potential to affect entire business adversely !!!

Here’s a recent incident with one of FM head in SE Asia. The FM head said, as an organization, the focus last financial year (FY) was on acquiring subscribers. The situation however when the annual report was published was :

(a) High growth in subscriber numbers

(b) Significant drop in revenues

(c) Drop in ARPU & AMPU

So, what had not gone according to the plan? Marketing had come up with “jazzy plans” to attract new subscribers. This was an avenue for dealers to inflate sales and earn commissions, as they realised the controls were not stringent (falsified subscriptions, dummy subscribers etc). Hence a significant portion of the new customers were taken on-board, but not generating revenue. This not only affected the top-line growth and in turn impacted the health indicators (ARPU and AMPU), but had a snow balling effect on investor confidence. The stocks have since then taken a beating.

This year the Telco is focusing on cleaning the subscriber base and finding ways to have the others generate more revenue. The FM head said, had we been vigilant while growing, we could have avoided a lot of negative consequences. The learning is fraud not only impacts small pockets of revenue streams. It could potentially impact the business at large. Hence it is imperative to consider fraud aspects as part of the proactive controls when launching new products and services.

The “Revenue” of Revenue Assurance

What is the scope of Revenue Assurance? Honestly, this is a vendor / RA team/ consultant capability dependant age old myth, leading to the term being a misfit for the purpose. There are always things that one can debate on such as what is in scope and what is out of scope? However, if one takes the terms “revenue” and “assurance” at the face value what would be defined as the scope of work? It would simply mean any activity/event that has the ability to generate revenue should be monitored to ensure that the associated ‘revenue’ is generated; and if it is not, ensure steps are taken to fix it. Sounds fair? But then, this brings in another primary question: “What is “revenue”?

Ask personnel from finance and they would give you the most appropriate and correct answer. Now if you ask the same question to an RA professional, the response would not be encouraging. It is not to say that such individuals don’t know anything- but it is a matter of knowledge w.r.t the financial context. Typically, the individuals working in the RA department have sound knowledge of KPIs, data analysis and such items that are monitored as part of RA activities.  However, often the large part of data analysis related to finding leakage is not translated in the correct/appropriate terms for business benefit.  The net effect of this at times, results in inappropriate KRAs for the RA department. I remember hearing somewhere, the KRA for the RA department for an operator was to detect x% more leakage from the previous year!  I don’t think that is a valid KRA.

The solution therefore is to establish the following two things:

  1. KRA’s for the RA department need to be worked backwards: The KRA’s of the department need to be defined keeping in mind the core business objective of the operator.  In this aspect, one would have to determine, how to map the organization KRA’s to that of the RA department? This would definitely vary across operators. Example, if the organization’s focus is to improve profitability of services, one would have to determine the impact of the same in cases of leakage.  Hence, the KRA for RA department would have to be worked backwards to ensure that the efforts put in by the RA department are aimed at fixing leakages around activities that would improve profitability.

  1. Accounting of detected leakages in a manner that makes sense:  The “revenue” calculations should be used only for quantification and gauging the leakage potential and recovery. This may or may not be the most accurate revenue calculation because RA is not accountable for revenue generation. However, there are a few methods  which use the following of revenue calculation
    1. ARPU
    2. “best fit rating” of usage xDRs
    3. Effective rate of XDRs
    4. Effective rate of files

NOTE: A revenue assurance department should ideally NOT even attempt to calculate Revenue per Stream/Service/Business Unit, ARPU, AMPU and other revenue figures. These should be obtained from the financial systems for quantification of the leakage detected and to understand the potential impact of leakage on the top line of the company.

Besides “revenue” there are multiple other aspects of RA that should be addressed and answered much before the start of RA activities. In the next post I would try to address the following 5 questions that should be looked at, as the business aspect around RA:

  1. Who is responsible for RA?
  2. What should be viewed as the tactical task for the RA department?
  3. What is the ideal number of controls that should be worked on by the RA teams?
  4. What are the most important parameters to report on?
  5. Is Cost Management a part of RA activities?

Should the government be in the business of running a business?

Could privatization of Air India have saved this day? Should the government be running a business? Should it have left the business to people with the necessary skills and expertise? It is argued that privatization, which is a part of disinvestment process, results in better use of resources and efficient allocation. Around the world, many instances of businesses that have thrived after government relinquishing control are common place (there is also the other side that have not taken off well due to various other critical success factors not being met).Nevertheless, increasingly, governments are taking the role of regulators and not producers.

Is it not a similar situation being observed in Telecom industry? From a situation where the Telco’s produced (or managed) everything themselves, they are shifting their focus to building brand equity, customer satisfaction and user experience. Thus, telco’s are deciding how their eco-system needs to shape and work to achieve their goals (regulators), while a partner is delivering the required results (producers). Some of the strategic outsourcing engagements in India (Bharti and IBM for example) are very good examples of a thriving partnership. What was common place for networks is now spreading its tentacles to B/OSS.

Of course, many Telco’s are in a quandary on where to fit in functions like Revenue Assurance & Fraud Management – firstly, does it come under tactical operations or strategic business? One RA business head that I know of in the region has been tasked, by the CFO, with a specific KRA of increasing revenue by “x%” from the existing customer base in the current FY. Many more are likely to follow suit in the coming years (refer to KPMG Global RA survey 2012). The profile of RA/FM is changing – in addition to protecting revenues; they are involved in the areas of enhancement & managing revenues. Hence, the answer to the question above – RA/FM are both tactical (producing the desired results) and strategic (supporting the strategic initiatives of the organization).

Now what would be the right strategy – should I outsource or not? There is no one answer that is right. The only right answer is “what suits you”, depending on the organizational social & cultural makeup, risk appetite and the scale of economic issues. When I meet my customers, we work with multiple options and eventually decide on the best fit. Here are a few possibilities that could be looked at:

  • Pilot program (minimal scope, few people, short duration etc) for the risk averse
  • Bonus / Gain share to ensure accountability from vendors
  • Part outsourcing the tactical part and retaining strategic initiatives (remember one main challenge is to retain resources for career progression reasons. This would be an opportunity to give them the much needed upward movement into a new area)

No matter what the option chosen, it is important that it works for both the partners in meeting the common goals.

And, I hope Air India takes off well again – they have better leg-room and delicious food compared to other airlines in the sector.

An economical approach to Mobile Money?

It’s clear to all that the advance of mobile money and NFC services has become an unstoppable force, with the latest estimates putting global NFC m-payment transactions at US$50 billion by 2014. For the Fraud & Security teams in mobile operators this heralds arguably the single biggest change in the risk landscape since the original proliferation of mobile services back in the late 90s and early 00s.

Where there is money, there is fraud. It was therefore inevitable that when mobile phones became a financial instrument, they would immediately become a target for fraud. Mobile phones were already a very popular target for fraudsters and the combining of the 2 is simply irresistible. This has presented Fraud & Security teams with a fresh sets of challenges and opportunities, the first of which is how they are going to monitor the new services.

Many operators are looking to the financial services industry for best practice and whilst this certainly makes sense, I’m not so sure that the purchase of monitoring tools from the financial services environment is as wise. By buying in such systems, mobile operators run the risk of creating a siloed view of their customers, with one system looking at mobile money usage and others looking at calls, SMS etc. Surely the most effective way forward is to have a single view of every customer, assessing risk across all services.

Almost all operators have some form of Fraud Management System (FMS), monitoring their customers’ calls, SMS and data traffic. Mobile money services are relatively simple when compared to those offered by banks and insurers and the same is true of the data that they produce. It is therefore well within the capability of an FMS to take in mobile money and NFC transaction data and present it alongside the calls, SMS and data usage.

To avoid unnecessary expenditure and inefficient use of resource, my advice to mobile operators is to challenge your FMS supplier to provide you with a solution for monitoring your mobile money services. Only if their answer is ‘no can do’ should you be looking elsewhere!!

Morgan Ramsey

Business Consultant– Morgan has 12 years’ experience of fraud management in the telecommunications industry. Starting as a Fraud Analyst in the fixed-line environment, he worked for GTS and Primus before moving to Vodafone where he spent 6 years working in a number of roles covering fraud management, information security, new product risk and investigations. Whilst initially based in the UK, Morgan moved to Vodafone Group and worked across 16 locations globally. After leaving Vodafone, Morgan spent 2 years working as Senior Fraud Manager and an Investigations Consultant at CPW Group in the UK. Morgan joined Subex in March 2011 and works as a Business Consultant, specialising in fraud.

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